John Boorman’s first feature film finds him in the unwieldy position of trying to do for the Dave Clark Five what Richard Lester did for the Beatles with A Hard Day’s Night. There are a couple of problems with this idea—the lesser of which is probably that the group bore the name of drummer Dave Clark; Clark wasn’t the lead singer. The solution? Approach all the songs the way Lester approached “Can’t Buy Me Love.” In other words, put the music on the soundtrack over images of the boys cavorting. It works most of the time, though the five often appear to be running around because they’ve been told to, not because they’re expressing their uncontrollable energy. A larger problem is the simple fact that Dave Clark—aptly described several times in the film as saturnine—isn’t very likable.
The resulting film is a fascinating outburst of strangeness of almost Fellini-esque proportions—especially as concerns the gigantic images of Barbara Ferris hawking meat (“Meat for go!”) that appear to festoon the whole of London. The boys seem to live in a disused church that’s halfway turned into a gymnasium with multiple occupancy showers. The plot has stuntman Steve (Clark) running off with Dinah (Ferris) in the middle of a commercial shoot. The why of it is never very clear, except that she seems prone to running away, but the film is all about their decidedly peculiar adventures. For a purported comedy, the movie has a distinct air of sadness hanging over it, which may be its greatest strength, since it affords the film a strange haunting quality quite unlike any other Brit Invasion artifact.